The U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade recently held a hearing, “Oversight of the Consumer Product Safety Commission [CPSC],” that highlighted a rift between the four commissioners’ approaches to product safety issues, including the new consumer complaint database at saferproducts.gov. According to media sources, Democratic Commissioners Robert Adler and Inez Tenebaum primarily praised efforts to improve the safety of window covering cords, recreational off-road vehicles and other consumer products, while the two Republican commissioners, Anne Northrup and Nancy Nord, focused on CPSC’s failure to conduct cost-benefit analyses and criticized the consumer products database as a rush job that left the agency susceptible to lawsuits.

“Consumer is defined so broadly as to mean any living person. You don’t even have to interact with a product in order to file complaints,” opined Nord in suggesting that many of the database’s complaints originated with law firms instead of individual citizens. Her concerns were echoed by Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who described saferproducts.gov as a “happy hunting ground for the plaintiffs’ part,” as well as other House Republicans who took issue with CPSC’s new lead limits for children’s toys and its decision to sue the manufacturer of Buckyballs® magnetic toys.  

“Consumer is defined so broadly as to mean any living person. You don’t even have to interact with a product in order to file complaints,” opined Nord in suggesting that many of the database’s complaints originated with law firms instead of individual citizens.

“By and large, the CPSC does an admirable job of protecting Americans, and I remain very supportive of its work,” Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) was quoted as saying during the August 2 hearing. “But on occasion, the agency makes some puzzling, head-scratching decisions, which create economic hardships for U.S. businesses, without appreciably improving the safety of certain products.” See Law360, August 2, 2012; Bloomberg BNA, August 6, 2012.